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2 Weeks in Turkey: The Perfect Itinerary for a Luxury Trip

Are you planning a trip to Turkey?

There are so many fascinating places to see in Turkey, and you may be feeling a little lost figuring out where to start.

Don’t fret. Our customizable 2-week Turkey itinerary can help you plan the perfect trip.

We spent more than three weeks in Turkey (and have visited Istanbul and Ephesus several times on cruises).

But this travel guide works very well for 2 weeks in Turkey – as we’ve plucked the best of Turkey (pun intended!) for this itinerary!

And here’s the thing. You don’t need to go on a package tour.

We planned our own luxury Turkey trip, booking our choice of hotels (a mix of boutique and deluxe), internal flights and driver transportation.

You can do it too – for the best Turkey vacation ever!

2-Week Turkey Itinerary
Istanbul is a highlight when you visit Turkey

2 Weeks in Turkey: Highlights

We’re the kind of travelers who’d rather get to know three places well than breeze through ten places.

We also prefer less “travel” time (unpacking and packing) and more “experiential” time.

So on our tour of Turkey, we based ourselves in three destinations: Istanbul, Cappadocia and Bodrum. From Bodrum, we did day trips to Ephesus and Sirince.

Why visit Turkey?

What are the best places in the world you’ve visited?”

As professional travel writers – fortunate to have traveled everywhere from Sri Lanka to Greece – we’re often asked this question.

Without hesitation, our answer always includes Turkey.

The whole country makes for an epic trip – and there are many amazing reasons to visit Turkey.

It’s a fascinating mix of East-meets-West, with an exotic history, mind-blowing scenery, amazing ancient ruins and some of the tastiest food you’ll ever bite into.

From its seductive hammams in Istanbul to its beaches, palaces, mosques hot air balloon rides and bazaars, Turkey dazzles with its array of beguiling sights and experiences!

Turkey Itinerary
The Hagia Sophia is a must-see in Istanbul

How long to spend in Turkey?

If you’re wondering how many days in Turkey you need, you could easily spend months. It would take that long to see all the main attractions and historical sites!

But you can cover the best of Turkey in 2 weeks.

We’ve mentioned that the 2-week Turkey itinerary set out below is customizable.

You can easily pick the parts you want to experience for your trip – whether that’s 10 days in Turkey or (lucky you!) 3 weeks in Turkey.

A word of advice: If you only have 7 days to spare, don’t try to take in all of the country. That would be an almost impossible task, and you’d just exhaust yourself trying.

Focus instead on Istanbul and Cappadocia.

And if you can spend more than 2 weeks in Turkey, you can savor the luxury of slower travel (and perhaps add on another destination)!

Include hot air ballooning in Cappadocia in your Turkey itinerary!
Spend at least two weeks in Turkey to make the most of your visit to this diverse country – and be sure to go hot air ballooning in Cappadocia!

Best time to visit Turkey

The summer months of June, July and August are the peak tourist times to visit Turkey.

But they’re also the hottest months. Daytime temperatures regularly hit 90 F (32 C) in Cappadocia in August.

If you don’t like the heat but still want warm sunny weather, the best time to travel to Turkey is May or September.

We visited in September and found the weather perfect for both touring and beaching.

Visit Turkey in late spring or September for great beach weather.
Visit Turkey in late spring or September and you’ll still enjoy great beach weather (but without the excessive heat)

Late April and early October are also pleasant and mild.

You can actually visit Turkey year-round.

But if visiting between mid-December to mid-March, you should expect rain and/or snow – just one of the things to know if visiting Turkey in winter.

Mind you, we hear winter in Cappadocia can be magical – a veritable snowy wonderland! (And Capaddocia’s famous hot air balloons still fly in the winter.)

Snow on the ground in Cappadocia
Winter in Cappadocia can be a wonderful time to visit!

Other Turkey travel tips

Booking hotels in Turkey:

Be sure to book your hotels in Turkey in advance.

Do not leave it to the last minute and book hotels on the go when in the country.

In 2017, the Turkish government banned the use of Booking.com to book hotels when you are already in Turkey. That ban is still in place, despite the objection of many hotels.

Also know that in high season, the best hotels book out fast. So you need to secure your accommodations early if you’re fussy about particular hotels (which we are).

Visas and Turkey entry requirements:

Most visitors to Turky need a visa. For example, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a tourist visa.

As of 2020, British and Irish citizens don’t need a visa, however.

Passport holders from a few other European countries (for example, Norway, Portugal and Spain) can also enter Turkey without a visa.

Check the current requirements for your particular country. For some countries, there may also be additional entry requirements.

If you’re eligible for a visa to enter Turkey, you’re usually able to apply online for an e-visa. And we’d recommend that you do this in advance.

Most ports of entry in Turkey allow you to fill out a visa application upon arrival. But it’s simpler to obtain an online visa beforehand – and it gives you peace of mind that you can indeed visit.

As for vaccinations, there are no special vaccine requirements to enter the country.

Currency in Turkey:

The official currency in Turkey is the Turkish lira. But U.S. dollars, Euros and British pounds are also generally accepted.

Having said that, it’s always better to use the local currency if you can, as you won’t have to figure out the conversion – and you’ll generally get a better deal.

You don’t want to exchange currency at the airport. You’ll get the stiffest exchange rate there.

Wait until you’re in the city and can hit an ATM or bank to withdraw cash.

Credit cards are widely accepted; Visa and Mastercard are the most common.

But you’ll still want some cash (preferably lira) when traveling in Turkey for tips, taxi drivers and shopping in the markets.

How to get around Turkey

When planning your Turkey itinerary, you'll want to fly between Istanbul, Cappadocia and Bodrum
When planning your Turkey itinerary, you’ll want to fly between Istanbul, Cappadocia and Bodrum

Turkey is a large country. It’s almost the size of Texas and Louisiana combined.

We recommend flying between your main bases to comfortably explore Turkey in two weeks.

We flew on Turkish Airlines to get around within the country.

We took direct flights from Istanbul to Cappadocia and then from Cappadocia to Bodrum. From Bodrum we flew back to the Istanbul airport.

Pink sky of Istanbul at night
There’s no denying the exotic allure of Istanbul!

For airport-to-hotel transfers and getting around Istanbul, Cappadocia and Bodrum/Ephesus, we used Vanguard Travel Services.

One of Turkey’s top tour and travel agencies, Vanguard specializes in customized tours for individual travelers, small groups and special interest groups – and service is white glove.

Going on a group tour is a good idea if you’re traveling solo and are concerned about safety in Turkey.

We found our local Vanguard guides in Ephesus, Cappadocia and Istanbul to be extremely knowledgeable.

Our airport and hotel transfers were prompt. And we were transported in deluxe non-smoking air-conditioned vans, equipped with complimentary cold bottled water and towelettes.

Map: 14-day Turkey itinerary

See this Google map we created showing the perfect Turkey itinerary route.

Distances in Turkey

Distances between the destinations in this Turkey itinerary are:

  • Istanbul (A) – Distance to Cappadocia 456 miles (735 km)
  • Cappadocia (B) – Distance to Bodrum 419 miles (675 km)
  • Bodrum (C) – Distance to Ephesus 105 miles (170 km)
  • Ephesus (D) – If you stay in Selcuk, distance to Istanbul 320 miles (515 km)
  • Istanbul (E) – Distance from Bodrum (C) to Istanbul 430 miles (695 km)

Day 1 to 5 – Istanbul itinerary

Map of Istanbul
Map of Istanbul

Feast like a sultan, gape at glittering palaces and soak in a steamy hammam. Welcome to Istanbul!

Located in western Turkey, it’s the country’s largest city.

And talk about unique!

Bisected by the Bosphorus Canal, Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents: Europe and Asia.

There’s the European side of Istanbul and the Asian side – with the Bosphorus separating the two.

Spread across two continents, Istanbul is the beating heart of Turkey
Spread across two continents, Istanbul is the beating heart of Turkey

For most visitors, Istanbul is the starting point for a visit to Turkey.

International flights typically arrive at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul.

It makes sense to shake off jet lag here (especially if flying from North America).

Best things to do in Istanbul

The other reason to stay in Istanbul for a few days is simple – there’s so much to see and do in this fabulous city. You could easily spend two weeks in Istanbul alone!

The following are some of the top places to go in Istanbul:

Visit Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul
The Topkapi Palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul

If this is your first time to Istanbul, no doubt the Topkapi Palace is tops on your list of must-see Istanbul attractions.

Home to sultans of the former Ottoman empire, it was built between 1466 and 1478.

But you probably also want to see the imperial harem, right?

Linked by courtyards, the Topkapi Palace Harem contains more than 300 beautiful rooms and nine bathhouses – some of which are open to the public.

Your imagination is apt to run wild.

What we learned, however, squelched some misperceptions about the juicier aspects of harem life.

A visit to the Topkapi Palace gives a glimpse into the lives of the sultans and concubines who lived here between the 15th and 19th centuries
A visit to the Topkapi Palace gives a glimpse into the lives of the sultans and concubines who lived here between the 15th and 19th centuries

Yes, it housed the sultan’s wives and mistresses.

But the harem was also “a center of education for concubines,” making them suitable marriage partners for courtiers and elite soldiers.

Windows in the Topkapi Palace harem
Windows in the Topkapi Palace harem

Still, even modern-day Turks aren’t immune to the allure of harem tales.

Several years ago, there was a popular Turkish TV show (Magnificent Century) about Roxelana, the red-haired slave girl who bewitched Suleyman the Magnificent into marrying her.

It had every female in the country glued to the tube on Wednesday nights. (For now, you too can watch it on YouTube.)

Topkapi Palace Museum

Location: In the Sultanahmet district (the historic heart of Istanbul) on the European side.

Hours: The palace is open every day (except Tuesdays) year-round, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. You can buy tickets up until 5:00 pm. (It’s closed, however, in the mornings on religious days).

Topkapi Palace tickets: Ticket prices were raised in July, 2019; to see the harem section, you need separate tickets.

For more information and ticket prices: See the official website.

Guided tours: This top-rated, 3-hour guided tour of the palace and harem includes skip-the-line tickets. (Meet your guide for Turkish treats near the palace, and walk from there.)

Take a Bosphorus cruise

Passing by the Bosphorus Palace on a Bosphorus cruise
Passing by the Bosphorus Palace on our Bosphorus cruise

One day in Istanbul, we booked a cruise up the Bosphorus Canal on the official public passenger ferry (Sehir Hatlari).

You don’t have to bother with fancier Bosphorus cruises in special tour boats.

The Bosphorus ferry is lots of fun and very atmospheric!

It’s like a hop-on, hop-off boat ride, allowing you to get off at various stops to see palaces and other sights, then jump back on the ferry again.

A Bosphorus boat tour is a lovely way to take in some of Istanbul's striking scenery
A Bosphorus boat tour is a lovely way to take in some of Istanbul’s striking scenery

From Eminonu, we cruised up to Anadolu Kavagi, the last stop before the Black Sea.

Onboard our Bosphorus cruise tour, vendors hawked hot black tea in tulip-shaped glasses as we puttered past grand villas.

We drink tea from tulip-shaped glasses onboard our Bosphorus ferry cruise
We drink tea from tulip-shaped glasses onboard our Bosphorus ferry cruise

At Anadolu Kavagi, we got off the ferry and enjoyed a late lunch at a fish restaurant overlooking the water, before getting back on a return ferry.

(The fish restaurants are a bit touristy. But hey, we were tourists, and there are worse ways to pass a few hours in the middle of the day than eating fish and sipping a couple of glasses of wine by the water!)

Each way between Eminonu and Anadolu Kavagi on the Sehir Hatlari ferry takes about 90 minutes, with five short stops to allow people on and off.

Ask your hotel’s concierge for ferry departure times (which change seasonally) and other information about booking tickets.

Ferry boat on the Bosphorus Canal
Ride the public passenger ferry on the Bosphorus Canal for a true local Istanbul experience

Other Bosphorus boat tours

Small group yacht cruise: If you’d prefer a small group cruise on a more luxurious power yacht, these Bosphorus yacht cruises get top reviews. The roundtrip tour is about 2 hours and 30 minutes. You see all the main waterfront sights, and it includes a coffee stop in the colorful Kanlica neighborhood on the Asian side.

Bosphorus cruise with lunch: Another option is to take a 4- to 5-hour (return) boat cruise to the Black Sea, which incudes a two-course lunch onboard. You get off at Anadolu Kavagi and see the ruins of a medieval fortress before cruising back to Istanbul.

Stroll Istiklal Avenue

The Golden Horn is a major inlet of the Bosphorus. From the old part of the city, if you cross the Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn, you reach the more modern areas of Istanbul.

Taksim Square, for example, is a major tourist hub and gathering place for locals in the modern part of Istanbul. The central station for Istanbul’s metro is also found here.

And then there’s Istiklal Avenue.

Running from Taksim Square, the long cobblestone stretch of Istiklal Avenue is a major pedestrian-only shopping hub.

Think perhaps Fifth Avenue in NYC – that’s what Istiklal is to Istanbul.

Lively and bustling, it boasts over one mile of shops – and great people watching too.

Check out the pretty Flower Passage

Entrance to Cicek Pasaji or Flower Passage in Istanbul
The main entrance to the covered arcade that is the Cicek Pasaji or “Flower Passage”

If you’re craving raki and mezes (small shared appetizers) at a cheerfully noisy meyhane (tavern-cum-restaurant), or you just want a few good travel pics, duck into Cicek Pasaji – the Istanbul Flower Passage.

Built in 1876, the pretty glass-covered arcade, found along Istanbul’s famous Istiklal Avenue, is filled with rows of restaurants, historic cafes and bars.

In earlier days, the Flower Passage housed shops and apartments.

After the Russian Revolution in 1917, poor but noble Russian women, including a Baroness, moved in and sold flowers here – hence its name.

The arcade was renovated in 1988 and the roof restored in 2005.

Today the Flower Passage lures in tourists with its beautiful European-style architecture.

Flower Passage, Istanbul
Go to the Flower Passage for the architecture and atmosphere (but maybe not for the food)

Pssst!

If you wander off into Nevizade Sokak, the narrow street behind, which is stuffed to the gills with more boisterous meyhanes, you’ll probably score a better meal for less money.

Gape at the Dolmabahce Palace

The Dolmabahce Palace is just one of many grand palaces you can see in Istanbul
The Dolmabahce Palace is just one of many grand palaces you can see in Istanbul

We also visited the opulent 19th century Dolmabahce Palace.

The largest palace in Turkey, this European-style palace was built between 1842 and 1853.

It was home to six sultans.

And while the capital is in Ankara in eastern Turkey, the country’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, also stayed at the palace when visiting Istanbul.

He died in 1938 in the palace – at 9:05 am – and that’s the time shown on all the palace clocks.

You can’t help but ooh and aah when touring the palace, turned into a museum in 1984. In today’s dollars, more than $1.9 billion was spent on it.

Some 14 tons of gold gild its ceilings. There are 150-year-old bearskin rugs, gifts from Russian Tsar Nicholas 1.

Every chandelier is made of French Baccarat crystal – the famous Crystal Staircase has crystal balustrades.

The Crystal Staircase in the Dolmabahce Palace has crystal and mahogany railings.
The Crystal Staircase in the Dolmabahce Palace has crystal and mahogany railings

Dolmabahce Palace Museum

Location: In the Sultanahmet district (the historic heart of Istanbul) on the European side.

Hours: The palace is open every day (except Mondays) year-round, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. You can buy tickets up until 5:00 pm. (It’s closed, however, on religious days).

For more information and Dolmabahce Palace ticket prices: See the official Dolmabahce Palace website.

Guided tours: These guided tours of the palace are carried out by licensed English-speaking guides, and they include skip-the-line tickets.

Soak in a Turkish hammam

Hammam clogs at an Istanbul hammam
Don’t miss visiting a hammam in Istanbul!

You’ve probably never had an authentic Turkish hammam experience before – at least not the way it’s done in Turkey.

Chances are you’ll love it and be clamoring for another hammam treatment before you leave Istanbul.

Visiting a hammam late in the afternoon is a great way to relax and get squeaky clean before going out for dinner in the evening.

The steam, scrub and soapy massage we had at the AyaSofya Hammam sure trumped the utilitarian showers we normally have back home!

In case you missed it, you’ll want read our post on the top hammams in Istanbul.

Other top things to do in Istanbul

Once a church, then a mosque, the Hagia Sophia is now a museum
Once a church, now a mosque, the Hagia Sophia is a major cultural site in Istanbul

There are many other fabulous places to visit in Istanbul too.

In the old town, we also visited the Hagia Sophia.

Built as a Byzantine church in 537 AD, it was transformed into an Ottoman mosque and then later into a museum. In 2020, it became a mosque again. And it’s one of the most beautiful places in Istanbul!

The Blue Mosque (named for its blue-tiled interior) is just a short walk away.

(Visit both the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque on this small group guided 3-hour combo tour by Walks in Europe.)

The Spice Bazaar is also worth visiting.

Istanbul Spice Bazaar
No, not the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul is all about spices

And in the historic Grand Bazaar – one of the world’s oldest and largest markets – we had fun bargaining and buying a couple of pashminas and silver jewelry.

The Galata Tower is another Istanbul attraction you might want to visit.

The Ottomans used it as a watchtower for spotting fires. Now a museum, it has an observation deck up top, offering panoramic views of the city.

Some other historic sites in Istanbul to take in include the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici) and the glorious Suleymaniye Mosque.

The imperial Suleymaniye Mosque was designed by the famous Turkish architect, Mimar Sinan (he also built the AyaSofya Hammam)

Next visit to Istanbul?

We’d like to visit the Chora Museum for a look at its Byzantine mosaics and frescoes (which we hear are amazing).

Where to eat in Istanbul

Turkish food is some of the most delicious cuisine in the world. You could make a meal of the mezes alone!

Dinner typically starts with an array of hot and cold mezes like hummus, fried eggplant with yogurt and tomato sauce, stuffed zucchini blossoms, feta cheese “cigarette” pastries, olives and so on.

Then you move on to the main course (fish or meat) before finishing off with something sweet. Hello baklava!

Pistachio baklava
Who can resist the sweet deliciousness of baklava with pistachios!

And to drink?

Turkey’s signature drink is raki, made from twice-distilled grapes and aniseed.

So, what are some of the best restaurants in Istanbul?

There are many!

We had a particularly memorable meal at the rooftop terrace of Hamdi Restaurant. It’s got to be one of the most romantic places to eat in Istanbul!

You get beautiful views overlooking the night-lit New Mosque and Bosphorus Canal while dining alfresco.

View of the New Mosque from the outdoor terrace of Hamdi Restaurant
View of the New Mosque from the outdoor terrace of Hamdi Restaurant

Our favorite dish at Hamdi was a delightfully-flavored grilled minced lamb, cumin, pistachio and onion creation.

Another good bet is Turk Fatih Tutak.

This Istanbul restaurant has been awarded two Michelin stars. It uses locally sourced products from the land and sea to create international dishes with a Turkish twist.

For a great taste of Istanbul – where you eat at 10 different restaurants and eateries – Yummy Istanbul offers a full-day foodie adventure.

After starting in the Old City on the European side, you cross the Bosphorus Strait by ferry to the Asian side, where you sip and nibble your way through more eateries. The group size is limited to just eight people.

Where to stay in Istanbul

Istanbul has no shortage of deluxe hotels – from grand restored palaces to modern boutique hotels. During our visits to Istanbul, we’ve stayed at several which we can recommend.

Dining at the Ciragan Palace Kempinski with a view of the Bosphorus Canal
The Bosphorus-facing Ciragan Palace Kempinski is one of the finest places to stay in Istanbul (Credit: Ciragan Palace Kempinski)

Two larger luxury Istanbul hotels we love are the Ciragan Palace Kempinski and the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul.

Both have great Turkish hammams.

And then there are the boutique hotels in Istanbul.

For a stylish boutique hotel, Tomtom Suites is lovely. It’s housed in a former 1850s convent near the Italian consulate in the Beyoglu district.

Or try Sumahan on the Water. It’s a restful retreat on the Asian side (and the private taxi boat ride across the Bosphorus Canal is fun).

Day 5 to 9 – Cappadocia itinerary

These tall rock pinnacles in Cappadocia are known as "fairy chimneys"
These tall rock pinnacles in Cappadocia are known as “fairy chimneys”

Remember Star Wars and the surreal desert planet where Luke Skywalker grew up? (That’s Tatooine – for all you Star Wars fans.)

Turkish tour guides will tell you Cappadocia was the film set for Star Wars. Not hard to believe.

With its weird mushroom-shaped rock sculptures, rocky ravines and sand-swept lava valleys, Cappadocia sure looks like it could have been Luke’s home.

During your 2 weeks in Turkey, you have to make Cappadocia your temporary home for a few days too – it’s a place you absolutely must see in Turkey!

Best things to do in Cappadocia

The following are some of the top activities in Cappadocia:

Explore the underground cities of Turkey

Underground cave city of Kaymakli
The underground cave city of Kaymakli

Now, the fictional Star Wars hero might have had no problems living in Cappadocia. But all those lava rock ridges and outcroppings look rather inhospitable for real human inhabitants.

So why would a trinity of saints (St. Basil the Great, his younger brother St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Gregory of Nazianzus) choose to settle in Cappadocia in the 4th century?

Precisely that inhospitable looking rock. Dubbed “living rock,” this special tufa stone is soft and easy to carve, but hardens when it comes in contact with air.

Early Christians escaping persecution found the tufa stone ideal for tunneling out underground cave cities in which to live and hide from their enemies.

It’s believed there were some 150 to 200 underground cities in Cappadocia.

Today, two of the best underground cities to visit are Derinkuyu and Kaymakli.

On a guided tour, we squeezed through the tunnels of the underground city of Kaymakli. It has more than 100 tunnels connecting at least eight levels of living quarters.

Most of the time we didn’t feel claustrophobic because there are air and light ventilation shafts. We could also stand up in the large cave rooms.

Still, you do have to scrunch over to shuffle through some tunnels.

Go hiking in the Rose Valley

The Rose Valley gets its name from the color of the unique rock formations
The Rose Valley gets its name from the pink-hued color of the unique sculpted rocks

The same rock that was ideal for creating underground cities was also easy for carving out churches and monasteries in the cliffs above ground.

Centuries ago, Christians used these religious establishments as a base to spread the Orthodox Christian faith.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Cappadocia’s rock-cut churches and underground cities were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.

Not surprisingly, these rock-cut churches combined with the sculpted rock landscape provide the perfect setting for breathtaking hiking in Cappadocia.

Through our Cappadocia cave hotel, we arranged for an all-day hiking tour with a private tour guide in the Rose Valley.

The song of nightingales filled the air.

And it was fascinating to peer inside some of the churches we passed, many painted inside with beautiful frescoes.

Hiking Rose Valley isn't all about the rippling red rocks - the wildflowers are beautiful too
Hiking Rose Valley isn’t all about the rippling red rocks – the wildflowers are beautiful too

It was also interesting to see and learn about the dovecotes (pigeon holes) in the upper cliffs.

The early inhabitants in the region used pigeon droppings to fertilize the fields and pigeon egg whites to make plaster for walls.

A butterfly on our Cappadocia hike
A butterfly on our Cappadocia hike

Our tour also included a delightful Turkish lunch in a private wooden gazebo by the river in Belisirma Village.

The trail along the Melendiz River in the Ihlara Valley is another popular Cappadocia hike – lusher than the Rose Valley.

Check out this guided full-day Cappadocia tour that you can prebook before your trip.

It includes a visit to the Kaymakli underground city, hiking in the Ihlara Valley and lunch at a local river restaurant in Belisirma.

Visit the Goreme Museum

Many of the churches in Goreme Museum date back to the 10th and 11th centuries
Many of the churches in Goreme Museum date back to the 10th and 11th centuries

Another historic site in Cappadocia you won’t want to miss is the Goreme Open-Air Museum.

One of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkey, Goreme is an area packed with a fine collection of rock-cut churches.

Many also are painted inside with colorful frescoes.

Visitors climb up the steps of a rock-cut church in the Goreme Museum.
Visitors climb up the steps of a rock-cut church in the Goreme Museum

Ride in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia

Don't miss going  on a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia!
Don’t miss going on a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia! Magical…

You must also go hot-air ballooning in Cappadocia.

Cappadocia is one of the top places in the world to go ballooning, and soaring over Cappadocia’s “fairy chimneys” is hands-down one of the best things to do in Turkey.

Yes, it means a very early morning start to the day. But it’s totally worth it.

Our hot-air balloon ride with Royal Balloon is an experience we won’t forget – and the cost is more affordable than you may think.

Ballooning in Cappadocia is one of the most special things to do in Turkey.
Ballooning in Cappadocia is one of the most special things to do in Turkey

Where to stay in Cappadocia

It would be a pity to visit Cappadocia and not stay in a cave hotel.

We stayed in two cave hotels.

Esbelli Evi:

We absolutely adored Esbelli Evi – think loads of fairytale charm! (See our review of Esbelli Evi Cave Hotel.)

Rooms and suites also have kitchens, so they’re ideal if you want to stay longer in Cappadocia. (We stayed over a week in Cappadocia.)

Argos in Cappadocia:

Argos in Cappadocia was our other base in Cappadocia.

It’s widely cited as one of the best hotels in Cappadocia.

Day 9 to 14 – Bodrum itinerary

Bodrum Harbor at night

Why all the buzz about Bodrum?

Maybe because Bodrum is one of the chicest places to go in Turkey? Certainly, there are lots of delightful things to do in Bodrum.

Both a peninsula and a town, Bodrum is an hour’s flight away from Istanbul on the southwest coast of Turkey.

Jutting 25 miles into the dark blue Aegean, the hilly Bodrum Peninsula is a popular luxury summer holiday destination for Brits and Europeans.

Any 2 week Turkey itinerary should include Bodrum
The village of Turkbuku on the Bodrum coast is where many of Turkey’s elite like to vacation

Bodrum is also a celebrity hotspot.

Celebrity sightings include Beyonce, super model Kate Moss, Tom Hanks and Sting.

In July and August, the town throbs with nonstop nightlife.

But you can escape the throngs by staying in one of the pretty outlying villages, like Torba and Turkbuku (or Golturkbuku), favored by the wealthy from Istanbul.

These tiny coastal towns are the perfect place to chill after all your Turkey sightseeing!

Best things to do in Bodrum

Here’s what to do in Bodrum:

Enjoy Bodrum’s beaches

You dive right of the docks from luxury hotels in Bodrum
No sand in your bikini! You dive right off the docks in front of luxury boutique hotels along the Bodrum Peninsula

There are few sandy beaches in Bodrum.

Instead, the small resorts and boutique hotels along the peninsula have wooden decks on stilts extending over the sea, with ladders for entering the blue water to swim.

A hotel swimming dock on the Bodrum coast
A hotel deck on the Bodrum coast

We spent the days like sloths, reclining on plump cushioned loungers under shade canopies, rousing every so often to slide into the crystal water for a dip.

Visit Bodrum town

A dolmus in Bodrum
This dolmus or public mini-bus transports passengers between Bodrum and Golturkbuku

From most of the villages on the Bodrum Peninsula, you can can catch a dolmus (public mini-bus) into Bodrum town.

In the town, you can tour the 15th century St. Peter’s Castle and its shipwreck museum.

The view from St. Peter's Castle
The view from St. Peter’s Castle

We also had dinner one evening at the fish market, where restaurants cook up fresh seafood that you buy from little stalls. Unique!

Where to stay in Bodrum

Should you stay right in Bodrum town?

It was fun to go into Bodrum town and visit. But we wouldn’t want to base ourselves there in the height of summer – the town is simply too busy for our tastes.

We were glad we stayed in a couple of the villages on the peninsula at two luxury Bodrum hotels: Macakizi and Casa Dell’Arte. Idyllic!

Macakizi:

For glam, style and effortless chic, check out Macakizi, one of the hottest hotels in Bodrum. (Read our Macakizi hotel review for all the details.)

Casa Dell’Arte:

Casa Dell'Arte is one of the best luxury Bodrum hotels
Fronting a quiet bay, Casa Dell’Arte is one of the best hotels in Bodrum

For a sophisticated hotel on the water filled with beautiful art, check out Casa Dell’Arte.

See our review of Casa Dell’Arte to find out why this boutique hotel is catnip for art lovers – and a great choice for any Turkey luxury itinerary.

Ephesus and Sirince: Day trip from Bodrum

From Bodrum, we took a day trip to Ephesus and the traditional village of Sirince. (Ephesus is about a 2½-hour drive from Bodrum.)

Ephesus:

The ancient city of Ephesus is easily one of the best places to visit in Turkey.

A once-splendid ancient Greek city on the Turkish coast, the enchanting Ephesus ruins date back more than 2,000 years. Don’t miss the Library of Celsus, Terrace Houses and Ephesus Archaeological Museum!

Yes, Ephesus is the mother of all ancient ruins in Turkey!

Turkey's most important ancient city, Ephesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Turkey’s most important ancient city, Ephesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is also located near the Ephesus ruins. But unfortunately, little remains of this temple.

You might like this guided small group tour of Ephesus. It gets top reviews and includes pick-up and drop-off from Kusadasi or the cruise port.

Sirince:

A 15-minute drive from Ephesus, the small town of Sirince (population 600) is nestled as if in a bird’s nest on top of a mountain.

The Turkish people live here much as they did centuries ago.

There are no cars, and the women – dressed in head scarves and long peasant skirts – crochet doilies and embroider napkins.

To make a living, villagers sell handmade fruit wines, olive oil soaps and handicrafts to tourists.

An artisan crafts jewelry in Sirince, Turkey
An artisan crafts jewelry in the village of Sirince

While browsing, we were fortunate to see a rare circumcision procession. A young boy, dressed all in white, rode atop a white horse, while family and friends danced around him, playing flutes and banging drums.

Our guide explained that male babies are circumcised at birth, but the celebration occurs when the boy is about 10.

At the end of the day, we were driven back to Bodrum for a final day of beach time, before flying back to Istanbul, and then home…

Where to stay in Ephesus

You could tweak your Turkey itinerary to include an overnight stay in Selcuk (which is very close to Ephesus) to give you more time to explore the archaeological site and Sirince.

The boutique Akanthus Hotel Ephesus, which boasts a pool and garden, is perhaps the nicest hotel in Selcuk.

Other suggestions for your 2 weeks Turkey itinerary

If you have time, some other destinations you might want to add to your Turkey trip itinerary include Pamukkale, Marmaris and Izmir.

Pamukkale:

In southwestern Turkey, Pamukkale (meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish) is known for its natural salt pools and hot springs.

Calcium-laden waters springing from the earth cascade down over cliffs, and as the water cools, it forms hard white pools filled with warm water.

You can walk through the pools or lie down and bathe in them as you soak up the unreal beauty.

Meaning "cotton castle" in Turkish, Pamukkale is known for its warm pools of water cascading down white travertine terraces
Meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, Pamukkale is known for its warm pools of water cascading down white travertine terraces

If you’re interested in a tour of Pamukkale, check out this all-day guided tour on a day trip from Kusadasi or Selcuk.

It includes hotel pick-up and drop-off. You’ll explore the ancient city ruins of Hierapolis, as well as the travertine terraces of Pamukkale, which are located beside Hierapolis.

Marmaris:

With the largest harbor in Turkey, Marmaris is a popular Mediterranean resort area and major yachting center.

It’s the main starting point for multi-day “blue cruises” – sailing in a traditional wooden yacht (known as a gulet) along Turkey’s famed Turquoise Coast.

Discover idyllic coves, pine-covered mountains plunging into the sea and ancient stone villages as you sail to Kas, Kekova and Fethiye.

At the beach village of Oludeniz, watch paragliders soar over the impossibly aquamarine waters of Turkey’s famous Blue Lagoon.

For the absolute best Turkey itinerary, we’d have loved to have added even a few more days again for a blue cruise. Next visit!

Turkish gulet on a Blue Cruise
Turkish gulet on a Blue Cruise

Of course, if you want to visit Istanbul, Cappadocia, Bodrum and Ephesus, that would definitely mean spending more than 14 days in Turkey (for a comfortable trip).

So you could swap out Bodrum and substitute a blue cruise starting from Marmaris instead.

Izmir:

Known as Smyrna in ancient times, Izmir is a large city on the Aegean Coast.

With 8,000 years of history, it’s full of archaeological sites and monuments. At the same time, it also has a reputation as Turkey’s most western-oriented city.

Izmir's famous clock tower at night
This historic clock tower is the most famous landmark in Izmir

Browse the city’s fascinating Kemeralti Bazaar, watch the sunset from the long seafront promenade, admire the sculptures in the urban Culture Park, visit the Izmir Archaeological Museum and stroll about the open-air Agora.

Depending on how you plan your Turkey 2-week itinerary, Izmir also makes a good base for visiting Ephesus, as it’s only a one-hour drive away.

Final thoughts on spending two weeks in Turkey

Now you know what to do in Turkey! (Well, the highlights anyway.)

But if you’re like us, you’ll be quite sad to leave the country.

Yes, a 14-day itinerary for Turkey will let you see and experience many of the vibrant country’s highlights.

But don’t be surprised if it just leaves you wanting more. With each passing day, you’ll realize you’re barely scratching the surface of this wonderful country!

We hope our two-week Turkey itinerary helps you to better plan your trip. (And if you’ve been, and you’d like to share your thoughts on places you think should be included in a Turkey travel itinerary, let us know in the Comments below.)

Have fun on your Turkey holiday!

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Luxury 2 Week Turkey Itinerary
2-Week Turkey Itinerary

Photo credits: 10 to 15, 18, 19, 22, 23, 26, 28, 30, 31, 33, 34, 36, 38 to 45 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase


We were invited to stay at most hotels mentioned here as media guests. Vanguard Travel Services provided ground transportation and guiding on a complimentary basis. But as professional award-winning travel writers, we always maintain our independence and ability to write what we want, as we experience it.


About the authors:

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Karina

Friday 2nd of October 2020

Thank you for all the information you shared! It's really helpful.

How much should we budget for a couple per day?

Thank you!

Janice and George

Monday 5th of October 2020

Glad you found our information on Turkey helpful!

Apart from international and internal flights, your biggest cost will be accommodation.

Let's say you spend half your nights at charming boutique hotels like Romance Istanbul Hotel (see our post on "Boutique Hotels in Istanbul"). You're looking at about $170 USD night here. And say you spend the other half of your nights at splurgey places like Casa Dell'Arte in Bodrum (cost about $330 USD night). Then you're looking at an average of $250 USD night for nice hotels.

Add meals with drinks or wine, perhaps $100 USD a couple? (Breakfast is often included in the rates at hotels.) Budget around $50 USD a couple for tours and admissions to sites (some days you won't be doing anything, e.g., just hanging out in Bodrum).

A total of $400 USD a day should pay for a very nice luxury trip in Turkey :-). That doesn't include flights, of course.

Anda

Wednesday 4th of September 2019

What a great itinerary, Janice! We've only been in Istanbul so far, but I would really love to see some of these other places, like Cappadocia and Bodrum. I'm not sure if Turkey is safe to travel anymore though. After that failed military coup and devastating terrorist attacks in 2015, I am a little scared to go there.

Janice and George

Wednesday 4th of September 2019

Do try to visit Cappadocia and Bodrum some time in future -- you're sure to love it! Unfortunately, so many places in the world are at risk for terrorism today... The general advice for Turkey is to avoid travel near the border with Syria (of course!) and to avoid traveling to southeastern provinces too. And to exercise caution... Checking your home country's government travel advisories for Turkey is also wise.

Jay

Tuesday 26th of August 2014

You're right about Bodrum in the height of summer. But there are plenty of smaller towns and villages to visit on the Bodrum Peninsula. I'm a big fan of Gumusluk, a small fishing village which is famous for its current archaeological activity. Yalikavak is also an enjoyable mid-size town, with an active local and expat community. One of my favourite local markets is held here every Thursday. For something a little less touristy, try Gundogan, between Yalikavak and Turkbuku.

I love this area of Turkey so much, that I bought a house there and started to publish a website about the area. So if you're looking for more information about Bodrum and the surrounding area ... hop on over and take a peek.

Michael

Monday 16th of June 2014

I like Bodrum but as you say, prefer to stay in one of the smaller resorts, ideally Turgutreis. For Sirince, can not fault a stay in the nearby town of Selcuk, it is so traditional.

Janice and George

Monday 16th of June 2014

Turgutreis! Nice to hear of another great little resort town on the Bodrum peninsula. Thanks for commenting...

Julie

Wednesday 4th of September 2013

Great post! I'm heading to Bodrum in October, so this was really helpful to read!

Janice and George

Wednesday 4th of September 2013

Good to hear! Enjoy your trip...